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It burns when I pee!

Suffering down-there distress? Get to the bottom of it with advice from the experts

Q. I can’t stop going to the loo, and it stings when I do – can you help?

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The pharmacist

A. Angela Chalmers, Boots pharmacist, says:

‘A common reason for this in women is cystitis – inflammation of the bladder, usually caused by a bladder infection. It’s painful to urinate, you’ll have the urge to go frequently, and your urine might be cloudy, with an unpleasant odour. It’s most often caused by bacteria from your bowel passing through the urethra (the tube that carries urine out of your body) to the bladder, where it causes an infection.

 

Unfortunately, women are more prone to cystitis than men, as their urethra is shorter and closer to their back passage, so bacteria don’t have far to travel. Triggers include wiping incorrectly (always wipe front to back), sex (intercourse can push bacteria into the bladder), and using tampons, which may increase the risk for some women.

 

The good news? Mild cystitis usually clears up by itself in a few days. You can help ease symptoms with over-the-counter products that help reduce the acidity of urine. Also, a hot-water bottle and painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen (if they’re suitable for you), can help soothe any  discomfort, as can keeping hydrated and avoiding sex until you feel better.

 

If your symptoms persist for more than a few days, along with a fever or blood in your urine, see a GP – cystitis can lead to a more serious kidney infection. The doctor will take a urine sample to confirm it’s cystitis, then they’re likely to prescribe antibiotics, which are normally effective within a day or two.’

The doctor

A. Consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Karen Morton says:

 ‘Cystitis can be caused by friction from sex. Think about what would happen if you rubbed your skin excessively – eventually, it would become irritated. Sex can do this to the urethra and bladder, as they sit in front of the vagina, with very little tissue in between.

 

It could also be due to a temporary oestrogen decrease post-childbirth or while breastfeeding. The vagina can become dry during the menopause, and reduced oestrogen levels may change the balance of bacteria in the urethra – so it may be more vulnerable to harmful bacteria, which can spread to the bladder via the urethra.

 

If you’re prone to urinary tract infections from sex, using lubrication to reduce friction is important, particularly post-menopause. You should also empty your bladder regularly and fully (including after sex). Be aware that post-childbirth, the bladder may sit a bit lower, making it more difficult to empty fully. Go, and then go again.’ If you’re experiencing this problem, see your GP.

Compiled by Fiona Ward Photography Getty Images

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